Vanessa Wolf is a former head chef. She offers her frank assessments in the interests of honesty and improving Maui’s culinary scene.
By Vanessa Wolf
Like a lone revolutionary, Like Poke? stands out against the rusty landscape on a daunting stretch of Hobron Avenue, shunning crowds and convention and defying you to continue to drive around as a growing conviction in you says you’ve made a wrong turn.
Still, unless you’re a semi-truck driver or regularly searching for a place to conduct a super shady drug deal, there is no way you’ll ever just “happen upon” Like Poke?
Let’s get one thing straight: this food truck is a royal pain in the tuchus.
No, not because of the sketch location or question mark name, but due to the fact it regularly sells out of poke by 11:30 a.m. despite its semi-absurd whereabouts.
Like Poke? might make you cry, fume, and scream at your GPS, but – provided you get there early enough – it will be worth it.
Let’s bottom line it.
As the name implies, it’s all about the poke.
Fresh, local fish (ahi on every visit and ono once) procured from area fishermen is chopped and chunked, mixed with green and white onions and transformed into shoyu ginger, shoyu wasabi, limu (seaweed), and spicy poke per your request.
Maybe it’s the freshness of the fish.
Maybe it’s the marinade it’s clearly been curing in.
Maybe it’s the glorious sense of triumph at actually finding the truck.
What matters is this is some damn good poke.
We started with the Spicy Ahi ($10).
Based on the ingredients in a spicy tuna sushi roll, the pre-marinated tuna is placed in a bowl and mixed with mayonnaise, Sriracha chili sauce, and tobiko roe.
It wasn’t quite as thick and creamy as the typical grocery store versions, but the light mayo coating still had a kick and allowed the clean fish flavor to shine through.
The Shoyu Ginger ($10) is equally fresh and flavorful and probably the most accessible to poke novices.
Speaking of which, at the sight of blue eyes, the friendly and efficient proprietor will likely assume the worst and explain to you that poke is raw fish.
We have to imagine this is a courtesy learned the hard way, and we appreciate him looking out for us.
The Shoyu Wasabi ($10) is reminiscent of ahi sashimi: salty, eye-wateringly piquant, and even a little sweet from the onions: your taste buds will thank you.
The menu changes daily and can vary wildly, but in general there’s often “Cow” or a hamburger steak; “Hippy Food” – fried katsu and/or poke on greens, and – of course – “Fish.”
The fish offerings usually come with two round snowballs of rice and can run the gamut from fried ahi or ono katsu (the breaded cutlet or schnitzel of Japanese cuisine), a poke bowl, “fried bone,” fried tako (octopus) or garlic belly.
The Ahi Katsu ($10) is crisp on the outside and still a bit rare in the middle; in other words, perfect. It comes drizzled with a sauce that tasted like a mix of mayo, shoyu and Worcestershire rather than the typical dark brown accompaniment: a change we prefer.
We also tried the Fried Poke ($10).
The Fried Poke takes everything healthy about poke, launches a dodge ball directly at its face, and makes it insanely delicious.
Individually battered and fried pieces of onion – think one of those “Bloomin’ Onion” things and you’re there – and ahi arrive on limp-attempt-to-make-you-feel-less-guilty bed of greens, and are generously topped with that shoyu etc. mayo sauce mentioned above.
The fish is cooked all the way through, and it might be a titch better if it weren’t, but this is only a minor issue.
Seriously, whomever invented this fried poke concept (Google indicates Sam Choy might be to thank/blame) should be made a knight or given a key to the city and owes us a considerable chunk of change for the new “fatty” wardrobe we’re going to have to buy.
Fried Poke Inventor, you’re a bastard.
And we love you.
And as for you, Like Poke?: ever have a stray cat show up and claim your home as its own?
We hope you’re ready.
The Like Poke? truck shows up around 10 a.m., can be sold out and driving away as early as 11 a.m., yet has been known to be there until around 2 p.m.
We welcome your feedback. Please let us know if you hear of any new restaurants opening or reopening, total menu overhauls, or simply know of a hidden treasure you want to share. Have a restaurant you want reviewed (or re-reviewed)? Drop us a line – Vanessa(@mauinow.com)